Link to Grand Rapids Herald-Review

I still haven't figured out what I want to be when I grow up.

(Fat chance of that ever happening, right?)

When I'm pushed for an answer to what I'd like to do in the future, however, I usually reply that my one remaining career objective is to be the first horse rancher on Mars. (NASA claims that the red planet should be ready for me by the time I'm 250 years old. I can hardly wait!)

In the meantime, there are other occasions when horse riding and science fiction may cross paths....

From "Time Bandits" to "Star Trek" to "Sliders," one of the favorite concepts in the sci-fi writer's bag of tricks is the possibility of a "rip" in the "time-space continuum."

Although it's inherently impossible, it's still intriguing to think about the possibility of slipping through a hole in time and finding myself in another era. All it takes is a little imagination and an area -- like Itasca County -- where there's still a strong connection to the past.

One such trip back in time took place in a field a few miles east of Grand Rapids. To this day, I haven't been able to pinpoint the exact location of the "rip," but the effect was dramatic.

Willy and I had just entered a large clearing at the top of a gentle rise.

Willy's ears aimed attentively ahead, and the saddle leather creaked quietly beneath me as we waded through the sea of grass billowing around us. Behind us lay roads, homes and power lines. But ahead was nary a trace of civilization.

It was just me and my horse in an uncharted wilderness. The year had slipped back to 1849, and we were headed toward whatever adventure and opportunity might lie over the horizon.

Then a car passed on the road beyond the tree line.

The moment passed as quickly as it had come, yet the magical effect has lasted.

There are other times and places that sometimes trigger such moments. When I walk out of the Herald-Review and scan the historic buildings of Third Street, my mind's eye can see back to the early days of the 20th century.

The Blandin expansion vanishes and the long row of false fronted hotels returns. That's not Lucy Flessner walking out of the Itasca Development Corporation. It's a long-skirted customer of the First National Bank. The Norwest building fades away and the Marr building reappears.

And then there's Highway 38 between Grand Rapids and the Wabana Road. Let me catch a glimpse of the old Bigfork Trail paralleling the road and I'm back in the saddle again -- setting out on the arduous two-day journey to Bigfork.

A drive up County Road 16 northeast of Goodland gives a long view of the old Swan River Railway grade. Time must be full of holes in that neighborhood, because I frequently catch misty images of steam engines pulling their strings of log-laden Russell cars along that century-old roadbed.

Okay, the rips don't really exist.

But it's fun to pretend.

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